And yet, despite the problems of the Social Security program, it is in relatively good shape compared to Medicare. That program was already trillions of dollars in the hole before President Bush and a Republican Congress stupidly expanded it by adding a massive unfunded drug benefit.
Peterson correctly argues that those elderly genuinely suffering from the high cost of prescription drugs could have been covered by a program costing a fraction of the one that was enacted. Instead, Republicans enacted a program covering even those who already had drug coverage from insurance or employers. This was done, as Peterson puts it, ?for the express political purpose of maximizing the number of seniors who take advantage of it.?
Republicans thought they had outfoxed the Democrats for once, but instead they outfoxed themselves. According to new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 47 percent of the elderly have an unfavorable impression of the new drug benefit, with only 26 percent having a positive one. Of those who say that the legislation will affect their votes in November, John Kerry is supported by better than a 2 to 1 margin. In terms of votes for Congress, Democrats are supported over Republicans by almost a 3 to 1 margin.
So in return for selling their souls, Republicans have gotten less than nothing in return. If every Republican who voted for this monstrosity is defeated for reelection, they will only be getting what they deserve.
Getting back to Mr. Peterson, I think he is too pessimistic in one respect. I think baby boomers are not going to retire to the golf course the way their parents did. A new survey from the University of Michigan finds that a high percentage of boomers expect to still be working full time after age 65. For example, among college-educated men, 43.7 percent expect to keep working, up from 33 percent in 1992. Every demographic group showed a significant increase in their intention to continue working well after the traditional retirement age.
Even if boomers keep working, however, we still have a fiscal problem that needs urgent attention. It would be better to do so before a financial crisis forces action. But I am not optimistic that will happen.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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